Covent Garden becomes world’s first augmented reality shopping destination

Visitors to Covent Garden can experience the Christmas shopping spree of the future this festive season as the area transforms into the world’s first augmented reality (AR) retail district in partnership with pioneering AR and visual discovery app Blippar and Hearst Magazines UK.

Following AR’s explosive growth in gamification and advertising during 2016 – the year that saw it shift from niche interest to widespread consumer adoption – retail is set to be the next AR winner in a market estimated to be worth over $90 billion by 2020.

Individual retailers have already started to reap the benefits of using AR in-store to digitally enhance their product offerings and consumer experiences. The Blippar activation in Covent Garden over the Christmas period will be the largest showcase of the impact of AR technology and gamification ever attempted in one location, creating immersive experiences that will transform brand loyalty and increase footfall, dwell time and revenue.

Today the activation launches across the one million sq ft Covent Garden estate in over 140 participating stores and restaurants including The Watch Gallery, Dior, Hackett, Sandro, Kiehl’s, Charlotte Tilbury, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Ted Baker and Paul Smith.

To help Covent Garden’s shoppers discover the perfect gifts in the lead up to Christmas, Hearst Magazines UK has collaborated with Blippar to create bespoke interactive AR beauty and fashion gift guides unique to the shopping district. For the next six weeks, top style editors from three of Hearst’s brands – Esquire, Elle and Cosmopolitan – will be working with over 35 retailers within Covent Garden to recommend their favourite product gifting selection, which can be discovered exclusively through the Blippar app.

Esquire, ELLE and Cosmopolitan will also support the initiative via print and digital platforms, and each brand will host a bespoke event in Covent Garden during the festive period.

Gamification elements to the campaign include giving visitors to Covent Garden the ability to ‘bring to life’ a digital reindeer which will amaze users of the Blippar app as it appears to ‘fly’ above their heads. Shoppers can also blipp Covent Garden’s spectacular 50ft Christmas tree in the famous Piazza, which will unlock retailer and restaurant “offers” from around the district in a unique world-first. If that’s not magical enough, families can collect further rewards by meeting Santa in an interactive neighbourhood grotto in before embarking on an AR treasure hunt to find and blipp all eight reindeers hidden around Covent Garden, to be entered into a daily competition to win exclusive retailer gifts.

Danny Lopez, Blippar Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are very excited to use the festive season as a backdrop for demonstrating the potential of augmented reality. This year we at Blippar will help digitally enhance the Christmas shopping experience and I’m thrilled that millions of visitors will be a part of such an exciting event. I’m delighted that we are partnering with Hearst Magazines and Capco Covent Garden to bring this fantastic experience to life.”

British company Blippar is one of the world’s fastest growing AR businesses with over 65 million users. Currently, its technology can recognise and provide information on more than half a billion everyday objects. By integrating digital assets in-store, Blippar is providing retailers with the technology to augment shoppers’ experiences and simultaneously allow retailers to engage in-store with customers.

Beverley Churchill, Creative Director of Capco Covent Garden, said: “We are looking forward to merging the old and the new, the real and the virtual in Covent Garden this Christmas to create a unique and truly magical shopping experience with our friends at Blippar and Hearst Magazines.”

Duncan Chater, Chief Revenue Officer at Hearst Magazines UK, says: “Hearst produces exceptional content across its brands, and we are constantly exploring new ways to innovate and push our content through new platforms to expand our reach. We understand where audiences are, what they want to consume and how they want to engage. We are really excited to be working in partnership with a leader in mobile augmented reality, and one of London’s most famous shopping destinations on such a unique project.”

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Notes to Editors:

For all media enquiries, please contact:
Covent Garden: Ellie Heatrick at Edelman: 020 3047 2298 /
Blippar: Deborah Weitzman at The 10 Group: 0207 637 0656 /
Hearst Magazines: Ben Bolton: 020 7439 5218 /

Augmented Reality
AR presents ample opportunity for heightening consumer engagement and the technology is predicted to shift heavily toward commerce in the long-term. According to a recent study, by 2035, AR has the ability to capture a quarter of the mobile commerce market, totalling more than £1 trillion.[1]

About Blippar
Blippar™ is the world’s fastest growing image recognition and augmented reality app. Utilizing proprietary, best-in-class image technologies, Blippar™ enables users to instantaneously pull interactive, informative digital content directly from the environment around them, their favorite publications, brands and objects via their iOS or Android devices. Since launching in the UK in 2011, Blippar™ has expanded rapidly, partnering with some of the biggest and most exciting media owners and brands in the world — including Nestlé, Condé Nast, TIME Inc., Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Heinz, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, and Jaguar. To learn more, visit

About Covent Garden
Covent Garden is one of the most distinct and vibrant estates in London. The district is now home to Apple, Chanel, Dior, Balthazar and Ivy Market Grill and has recently unveiled some of the finest residential properties in London. Capital & Counties Properties PLC (‘Capco’) is responsible for the management and curation of over 1 million sq. ft. of space at Covent Garden. Under Capco’s stewardship, Covent Garden has been transformed into a world-class shopping destination, welcoming over 44 million customer visits a year. Capco is a significant investor in the capital and aims to create and grow value through distinctive placemaking, innovation and enterprise.

About Hearst Magazines UK
Hearst Magazines UK is the trading name of National Magazine Company Ltd, established in 1910 by William Randolph Hearst, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hearst Corporation.
Hearst Magazines UK publishes 19 magazine brands and five pureplay digital brands including Cosmopolitan, Digital Spy, ELLE, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar.
It is the largest digital consumer magazine publisher in the UK with an online audience of 15 million monthly unique users. Hearst digital brands reach one in three UK online adults, one in three UK women and one in four UK online men. It speaks to 21 million fans and followers on social media*.
Hearst Magazines UK has interests in two joint ventures in partnership with some of the world’s best publishers:
Hearst Rodale UK: A 50:50 joint venture with Rodale Inc, which focuses on health and wellbeing. Hearst-Rodale publishes Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World, their companion sites and pureplay site, fetcheveryone.
COMAG: A 65:35 joint venture with Condé Nast, one of the U.K.’s largest magazine distributors.
* Sources: ABC (Jan – June 2016), Google Analytics (Jan – June 2016 average) Social impressions: Hearst social dashboard (June 2016)